How to Work Successfully with International Vendors

How to Work Successfully with International Vendors


The way businesses work alongside international vendors is changing. Organisations in the UK and the US no longer expect their international teams to adapt to Western ways of working.

There’s a growing understanding that learning to work alongside international partners can help achieve more successful collaborations.

International vendors can help your business realise its overseas goals, or achieve domestic projects more quickly. Using overseas vendors isn’t just a way to take advantage of lower labour costs in other territories. It’s increasingly now viewed as a way to access essential skills and experience that isn’t always available closer to home.

That means you need to cooperate more effectively to get the best out of your international vendor teams.

Krakow’s experience

The historic city of Krakow in southern Poland has distinguished itself as a major outsourcing destination, particularly for software services. But it isn’t by virtue of its cheaper labour costs that the former medieval capital has become one of the world’s biggest outsourcing destinations.

With several higher educational institutions churning out fresh tech graduates every year, Krakow’s able to supply talent that’s often hard to source elsewhere.

Whilst major business centres such as London and New York may have thriving economies, they also struggle with the high cost of living and the challenge of sourcing skills locally.

With fresh waves of new tech graduates every year and a good standard of living, Krakow doesn’t face the same problem. Major brands such as Cisco and IBM have based themselves here to take advantage of this.

Many smaller vendors in the city offer business services to clients abroad who struggle to resource certain skills and services, particularly for tech skills.

Poland now ranks third in the world for the quality of its software developers. Brands that chose to buy services from the vendors in this market tend to be seeking abilities they can’t easily find at home rather than a cut-price solution.

But just because Krakow’s international vendors can offer sought-after services, this doesn’t guarantee success.

Offering business services to foreign clients means working closely alongside partner organisations in a co-operative manner. Both sides need to work together to maximise the partnership’s chance of success.

Better outcomes through better co-operation

Learning better ways of working with international vendor teams can lead to better project outcomes. Increased cultural sensitivity leads to better communication; the key to successful international collaborations. It can also help reduce team turnover.

Having a well thought out onboarding process to get the vendor team integrated into your organisation and conversant with your brand is really important to good co-operative working.

Your onboarding plan shouldn’t just be a platform for your vendor partner to listen to you – it’s also an opportunity for your own team to better understand their new partners. An effective onboarding process can go a long way towards helping reduce friction and cultural conflicts.

Your onboarding process should help your team gain a better understanding of your vendor’s needs and way of working, as well as showing them your brand’s own approach.

There also needs to be an element of cultural onboarding, where both parties understand the best approaches for co-working effectively.

A good cultural onboarding process should help everyone overcome any stereotypes about the new culture they’ll be working with and understand what’s really culturally relevant to the working relationship. It’s important to get to know the vendor team as individuals too.

Use the onboarding process to help everyone understand how to measure the effectiveness of the working relationship and to set goals and targets for the partnership. This will help everyone understand what they need to focus on and how to improve things. It’ll help the vendor stay on-course throughout the project.

You should also use the onboarding process to set out a communication framework. Agree how often you’ll be communicating with them and what form these communications will take.

Will you have informal chats or formal meetings, will they be daily or weekly? It’s also important to try to meet in person at least some of the time, even if not all members of the team can make the trip.

You may find it helpful to set smaller assignments that will help understand your partner’s strengths and weaknesses and demonstrate how they work. This is a more sensible way of starting to understand your partner than immediately starting work on a significant and complex project.

Tackle any conflicts or disconnects that arise in the less significant project before you begin the more impactful one.

By the end of the onboarding process, your team should have a stronger partnership with the external vendor. Remember to keep an eye on how your internal team is coping with the change – it can be a time of high pressure and uncertainty for them.

Brands that are experienced at working with foreign vendors often recommend assigning a single point of contact for the vendor within your company. This person needs to be highly culturally competent, able to ‘translate’ between the two teams and hopefully a personality that’s able to reduce frictions.

Their working hours may need to be adjusted to accommodate whatever time zones that your vendor partner works in, to maximise their availability and they should aim to establish a trustful working relationship with the vendor as a key priority.

One of the key reasons Krakow has become a haven for vendors serving foreign clients is that the Polish workforce has a high level of cultural competency.

Being able to work on international projects doesn’t just require strong English language skills and technical ability – it’s also about offering a high level of cultural flexibility and empathy.

To really work effectively with vendor teams, it’s vital that your business improves its cultural competency in order understand and interact effectively with teams from other parts of the world.

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